Myths are created by larger than life narrations that are able to stand the passing of time by being transmitted from generation to generation. Thus, when they reach us, they seem to be something out of this world. They overwhelm us with their power by their sheer presence. Cross la Mandíbula, the new album by Argetinian urban-pop singer-songwriter El Italiano (a.k.a. Alejandro Giannini) explores how myths are formed with a powerful conceptual and musical proposal.
Alejandro Giannini began writing music at the age of seventeen. However, as he grew older, he became distant of current pop and rock music. Music began to feel irrelevenant in his life. Some years later, after living in Italy, Giannini decided to retake music and returned to Buenos Aires. He was inspired by the city and the culture to write something that has never been done before. Something that could have only been born in Buenos Aires and apart anglosaxon culture.
Cross la Mandíbula is an ode to the city of Buenos Aires, focusing in the myths that surround the city. Various figures from Argentinian culture and porteño are mentioned in the lyrics: from literature, places, historical archetypes and music; Roberto Arlt, Jorge Luis Borges, Buenos Aires, gauchos and Astor Piazzola. El Italiano goes even further by not adopting a simple urban-pop sound: he blends it with tango (!!!). A synth orchestra, along with guitars and accordions play over a hip-hop beat: tango is updated, not traditional in any shape or form, presented without any nostalgia. If urban-pop and tango were intense on their own, their mixture in Cross la Mandibula elevates them to eleven. All of the track’s intensity blend very well with the the lyrics. El Italiano sings about battles, heroic deaths, glory and betrayal. A whole journey that ranging from the first track “El Mito” (The Myth) to the last track “Redención” (Redemption).
“El Mito” starts with a guitar and orchestra riff which are later joined by a hard beat. El Italiano sings about glory, about love and the desire of a heroic death. It serves as a hook to the rest of the album. “La Primavera” (Spring) is a song about desiring a second chance. The narrator expresses guilt as he wants to be cleansed of all that he once was. What is most interesting of this track is that it borrows eight bars from the tango “Primavera Porteña” from the worldwide famous Argentinian composer Astor Piazzola. El Italiano re-presents the classics with a contemporary sound in a way that they are recognizible, yet new at the same time. “La Reputación” (Reputation) is about a character seeking attention of someone special and slowly increasing his reputation, while always keeping them in their mind. The strings and the drums highlight the intensity of the track, hitting like a non-stop flurry of punches.
“El Campeón Jacinto Chiclana” (The Champion Jacinto Chiclana) takes its title and reference from the song “Milonga de Jacinto Chiclana” by once again Piazzola and lyrics by writer Jorge Luis Borges. As it is the case in the song and other writings by Borges, “El Campeón Jacinto Chiclana” is a deconstruction of the figure of the Hero: this mysterious, larger than life force that seems to only exist in ficiton intself. “Toro” (Bull) is a violent track about an unstoppable force. The lyrics paint the picture of what seems to be a fight, in which the narrator went all out. “El Pecado” (Sin) is a song about revenge, defeat and our own image. The narrator questions his actions, his personality and how he intimidates others. The percussions of the track establish an intense rhythm that carries the energy of the track forward non stop. Last-but not least, “Redención” is a short instrumental track that neatly ties the album together. The muted horns with a hard beat serve as a bow of Cross a Mandíbula’s musical and thematical proposals.
El Italiano presents a new form of tango by blending it with hard-pop. He explores figures and myths of Buenos Aires culture and Argentinian culture in general without any nostalgia whatsoever, in a way that they can reach various generations alike. A raw, hard hitting album without a doubt, with a interesting musical/thematic proposal approached in an unexpected way, Cross a la Mandíbula is an essential listen for everyone who is fan of tango, urban-pop, Argentina or music in general!
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